A Bewitching Tale


As Halloween draws near, tales of ghosts, goblins, and witches abound.  Virginia has no shortage of haunted places to visit.  Virginia Haunted House Tours is a good place to check out various tours available.  Bacon’s Castle in Surry has tours geared to ghost lovers. Here’s the link:  Bacon’s Castle Haunted Tours

For this post, however, we’re moving away from ghosts to talk about Virginia’s most famous witch, Grace Sherwood.  She’s known as the Witch of Pungo.Grace pic

Born in 1660, she lived as an adult in the southern Virginia Beach area known as Pungo.  She was a farmer, midwife, and healer.  Apparently, she didn’t get along well with some neighbors, who accused her at various times of turning into a cat, killing their cattle and messing with their crops.

She put up a fight with these accusations, suing her accusers for slander.  Unfortunately for her (or really for her husband, who had to pay up) she lost the suits and owed court costs.

Virginia Beach likes its history!

Virginia Beach likes its history!

In 1706 she was accused of cursing Elizabeth Hill, causing her to have a miscarriage.  This one went to trial. As was normal for the times, the court ordered Grace to be ducked in water. If she sank, she was innocent; if she floated, she was guilty. Grace knew how to swim and got out of her shackles and made it to shore. That was the good news. The bad news was she was then jailed for almost eight years.

Once released, she was able to regain her property (which she had inherited from her late husband) and she settled back on her farm. Grace lived out her life peacefully, dying at the (for the times) ripe old age of 80 in 1740.

Statue of Grace at the former Sentara Bayside Hospital

Statue of Grace at Sentara Independence

Poor Grace Sherwood lived in infamy until 2006, the 300th anniversary of her conviction. Then Governor Tim Kaine recognized the injustice and restored her as a regular citizen.

Furthermore, just this summer, Old Donation Episcopal Church, where she was a member when she was accused, dedicated a marker in Grace’s honor.


Virginia Beach’s oldest church, Old Donation Episcopal

Grace Sherwood stone

Marker commemorating Grace Sherwood








So was she a witch, or just a woman ahead of her time?  We’ll let you be the judge of that.

This entry was posted in Southeastern Virginia and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Bewitching Tale

  1. Chrystal says:

    What a cool story!! I’m going to tell it to my students when I teach The Crucible!!!


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